Nightsleeper: plot, cast, first-look pics and all we know about BBC1's 'real-time thriller'

Joe Cole in Nightsleeper
Joe Cole plays an off-duty cop in Nightsleeper (Image credit: BBC)

A runaway train is heading our way in the form of Nightsleeper, a real-time thriller filled with "personal intrigue, political maneuvering and danger". 

Alexandra Roach (The Light in the Hall) and Joe Cole (Gangs of London) will lead the cast of the six-part BBC1 series, which has been created by BAFTA-winning writer Nick Leather (The Control Room, Mother’s Day

Produced by Euston Films — appropriate! — the series will see passengers battling to save themselves during a sleeper train journey from Glasgow to London, in a show described as a modern twist on the runaway train genre. 

Gaynor Holmes, Commissioning Editor for BBC Drama, says: "Nick Leather’s ingenious scripts combine a fantastic premise with a nail-biting plot and characters you will root for. We can’t wait to bring Nightsleeper hurtling on to the BBC — viewers will definitely want to catch it."

Here's everything we know...

Nightsleeper release date - when's it on BBC1?

The BBC have confirmed Nightsleeper will arrive on BBC1 and the BBC iPlayer in "early 2024". There's no US release date currently.

Nightsleeper plot - what happens? 

The BBC teases: "Nightsleeper is a real-time thriller set on a sleeper train travelling from Glasgow to London, while a government agency desperately tries to intervene in the rapidly-escalating events onboard. 

"Can two people who’ve never met, one on the train and one not, work together to save the lives of its disparate group of passengers as the Heart of Britain service hurtles towards what might quite literally be its final destination?"

"Abby Aysgarth, the Acting Technical Director at the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, is finally about to take a well-earned holiday when she receives a phone call that will change everything - the UK railway network is under attack. 

"Meanwhile Joe Roag, an off-duty cop onboard and hoping for a quiet night. However, over the next six rollercoaster hours, Joe’s about to get anything but, as he and Abby battle both their own distrust and the unpredictable behaviour of the person or persons now in control, desperate to try and stop the Heart of Britain from reaching the end of the line, in more ways than one…"

Alexandra Roach in Nightsleeper

Alexandra Roach plays Abby Aysgarth in Nightsleeper (Image credit: BBC)

Nightsleeper cast - who's in it? 

Joe Cole, who's appeared in hit gangster dramas Peaky Blinders and Gangs of London, plays off-duty cop Joe Roag, while Alexandra Roach, whose screen credits include C4 drama No Offence and period piece Sanditon, stars as cyber security boss, Abby Aysgarth.

The series also stars Alex Ferns (The Devil’s Hour), Sharon Small (The Bay), James Cosmo (Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan), David Threlfall (Shameless), Daniel Cahill (The Control Room) and Lois Chimimba (Vigil).

While an impressive cast is completed by Gabriel Howell (The Fence), Katie Leung (Harry Potter), Leah MacRae (Rosie Molloy Gives Up Everything), Ruth Madeley (Years and Years),  Adam Mitchell (Mother’s Day), Pamela Nomvete (Andor), Scott Reid (Maxine), Sharon Rooney (Jerk) and Parth Thakerar (Gangs of London).

Who is Nightsleeper creator Nick Leather? 

Leather is most famous for writing 2021 BBC1 series The Control Room, a thriller starring Iain De Caestecker and Joanna Vanderham, about an emergency call handler. 

He also won a BAFTA for his 2018 standalone Mother's Day, which was based on an infamous IRA bombing attack in Warrington, close to where the writer grew up. 

He has also previously worked closely with Jimmy McGovern, penning episodes of his dramas Broken and Moving On, while also writing on Apple TV Plus series Suspicion

When speaking about working on Nightsleeper, Leather said: “I couldn’t be more excited to work with Euston Films and the BBC to drive the engine of this real-time thriller and take our audience along for a ride full of personal intrigue, political maneuvering and danger. By the time dawn breaks at the end of this journey, no-one involved will ever be the same again”.

Is there a Nightsleeper trailer?

There's no trailer for this one yet, but we'll be sure to keep you posted once it lands. 

Sean Marland

Sean is a Senior Feature writer for TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week, who also writes for He's been covering the world of TV for over 15 years and in that time he's been lucky enough to interview stars like Ian McKellen, Tom Hardy and Kate Winslet. His favourite shows are I'm Alan Partridge, The Wire, People Just Do Nothing and Succession and in his spare time he enjoys drinking tea, doing crosswords and watching football.